Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Arlington Celebrate National Catholic Schools Week

ARLINGTON, Va. - On Sunday, January 29, Catholic schools in the Diocese of Arlington begin celebrating National Catholic Schools Week (Sunday, January 29-Saturday, February 4). The annual celebration, sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association, highlights the unique role of Catholic schools in providing exceptional instruction rooted in the Catholic faith. This year's theme is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.”  

“What a great time to be one of the 17,000 students who attend any of our 41 diocesan Catholic schools. Our schools are thriving with increased enrollment due to our strong Catholic identity, high standards and excellent reputation,” said Bishop Michael F. Burbidge. “I am grateful, first and foremost, to the parents who entrust their children to our care and work with us to nurture disciples of Christ. Parents are a child's first teachers, and it is the privilege of our incredible teachers and faculty to help them to build up the mind, body and soul of each student.” 

Burbidge continued, “The vibrant Catholic identity of our schools helps our students draw closer to the Lord and equips them to live out the Gospel. Our schools are truly beautiful communities of faith. Our teachers, who often sacrifice a great deal to work in our schools, care for the spiritual, intellectual and social well-being of all our children. The administrators who lead these schools ensure they are stable and flourishing and help with the formation of students from childhood through young adulthood. I am also most grateful for the work of our pastors and chaplains who labor to ensure the success of these schools and the young people entrusted to their care. May each of our Catholic schools continue to grow, flourish in their academic pursuits and proclaim the Gospel now and always.”

Dr. Joseph E. Vorbach III, Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said Catholic Schools Week is a time for celebration.

“Catholic Schools Week is always a joyful time in our schools when they celebrate their faith, their achievements and their power to serve their communities,” Dr. Vorbach said. “Our Catholic schools endeavor, in the words of the Holy Father Pope Francis, 'to nurture the desire for truth, beauty and goodness that lies in the heart of each individual.' During Catholic Schools Week, we try to shine light across the Diocese on all the ways this is being accomplished.”


  • 41 Catholic schools in the diocese educate more than 17,000 students. This translates into a $198 million savings to taxpayers. The average cost to educate each student in our schools is $8,423. 
  • More than 60% of diocesan schools have been awarded the National Blue Ribbon School Award designation. St. Agnes Catholic School was recognized in 2022. It joined Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Alexandria (2008, 2018) as a two-time awardee, having last been honored in 2009. St. James Catholic School in Falls Church is the only three-time award winner in the Diocese, having achieved this milestone in 1999, 2014 and 2020.
  • More than $7.2 million in financial aid was awarded for the 2022-23 school year
  • On average, diocesan school students scored in the top third percentile in standardized testing. 
  • All diocesan schools provide support to students with learning disabilities.
  • 18 diocesan schools have students enrolled with intellectual disabilities, an increase of three schools from last year.
  • 99% of our high school graduates go on to college.
  • Our high school graduates received more than $83 million in college scholarships.


Bioethics Program - Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores is the first Catholic high school in the country to offer a bioethics program. The four-year required course of studies focuses on philosophy and science. Students graduate with the ability to think and reason logically through some of today's most challenging issues

Dr. Clare Kuisell, a 2013 graduate of St. John Paul the Great, earned her bachelor's degree and doctorate in nursing from the University of Michigan. She has returned to her alma mater in part because of the bioethics program.  

"When I was considering careers after graduate school I felt called to serve as a teacher in a Catholic high school. My education at John Paul had such a positive impact on my life. I used the information and skills from the bioethics program to seek truth as a nurse and researcher,” said Dr. Kuisell. “I am blessed to be part of the mission at John Paul and hope to encourage my nursing students to incorporate bioethics and the Catholic faith in health care."

Dual Language Program - St. Ambrose Catholic School in Annandale offers the Diocese of Arlington's first dual language immersion program. Next year will be the second year of the program, with a new grade being added as the pilot grade advances. In 2023-24 year, kindergarten and first grade will be taught in both English and Spanish. Half the classes (Math and Science) are in Spanish, while the other half (Social Studies and Religion) are in English.  Language Arts is taught in both languages. Financial aid is available.

“This program is essential because St. Ambrose wishes to develop global citizens. Our students are equipped with the ability to communicate bilingually and build communication skills that will allow them to compete effectively in a diverse community,” said Maria Teresa Tejada, principal at St. Ambrose School. “The program develops listening, speaking, reading, writing, and global competence skills in two languages. We are very excited about it and the kids love learning this way, they are soaking it all up.” 

For more information on the program, please read this or watch this

Intellectual Disabilities -  Many of our schools, including St. Paul VI Catholic High School and St. Mark Catholic School,  offer programs for students with intellectual disabilities.  These programs allow all students, regardless of how they learn, to benefit from an inclusive, student-centered education. 

“We are all God's children, and as part of our faith we also believe every student has the right to a Catholic education, including those with special needs. Students benefit socially, academically and most importantly, spiritually from this all-encompassing approach,” Bishop Burbidge said. “I am so proud that our schools are leading the way in ensuring that students with intellectual and developmental disabilities receive the same high-quality formation and education as their peers, side-by-side in the classroom and in extra-curricular activities.”

Therapy dogs - Therapy dogs have been shown to help reduce anxiety and generally improve moods and focus.  Several of our schools, including St. Thomas More Cathedral School and Bishop Denis J. O'Connell High School, have regular visits with therapy dogs for their students.

“Charley helps our students improve their energy levels and helps foster happiness and joy during the school day. Studies have shown that therapy dogs have a positive impact on children's emotional well-being and cognitive development. They offer companionship and can help children learn social skills, empathy, and reduce anxiety,” said Chloe Jones-Washington, counselor at St Thomas More Cathedral School. 

Student Support - Our schools offer a wide range of services for students with ADHD, dyslexia and dysgraphia. These programs, including those offered at Bishop Ireton High School, help students succeed and successfully earn their diplomas. 

“Across the parish schools of the Diocese, resource teachers work diligently with classroom teachers, administrators and parents to assist students who are eligible for an accommodation to help them deal with a learning disability,” Dr. Vorbach said. “We continue to support efforts to expand these services.  All four diocesan high schools have robust programs in place to support students with specific learning disabilities.” 

Interested media should contact Mary Shaffrey, Director of Media Relations, Catholic Diocese of Arlington, at (703) 841-2517 or